5 ways to get the most out of fundraising events

Many nonprofits turn to events when looking for new fundraiser ideas, especially if they want to spread awareness throughout their local community.

While online fundraising and messaging are critical to an organization's success, sometimes there's no substitute for opportunities to meet donors face to face in an atmosphere that encourages participation and fun.

Events aren't easy, however, and organizations with limited resources need to be sure the costs are worth the benefits.

Here are five suggestions for how to ensure a nonprofit event effectively promotes donations while introducing audiences to a worthy cause:

1. Make events about empathy

Nonprofits need to be aware of why people give to nonprofit causes. Results from nonprofit research studies found that giving is social and contagious, according to The Guardian.

In controlled experiments, people were more likely to make donations to good causes when they saw what other people gave. This is one reason events can be successful - provided you give audiences a cause to gather around.

People are more likely to respond to emotional appeals than logical ones when it comes to choosing a good cause to support. Live events can be an opportunity to introduce donors to people they'll be helping.

For example, if your school is looking to raise money to fund an after school program, you can host an event where students share their stories (with their parents' permission, of course). Your students can explain how the program will give them a quiet, supervised environment to complete homework while they wait to be picked up by their parents who work late. 

When potential supporters hear your students' stories, they will feel a stronger connection to your cause and see why it matters to the children who will be impacted the most if your school can reach its goal. 

Hosting an event is also a chance to:

  • Premiere videos and images,
  • Engage in person,
  • And measure your audience reactions.

When you explain why you're raising funds in a transparent and personal way, it will evoke your donors' emotions, making them more likely to contribute. 

2. Provide multiple fundraising options

While an event can be designed to meet a single fundraising goal or relate to a specific cause, the incentives it offers donors can be quite diverse. Instead of just hosting a single auction or fun run, an event should provide audiences with the ability to contribute gifts in the way they enjoy most.

Events can have many features that correspond with the primary attraction. For example, auctions can have side raffles or booths to sign up for continuous donations. If an event really inspires action through emotional narratives, organizations want to ensure motivated individuals have options to move forward.

3. Make it easy to donate

Many organizations can still profit from collecting cash in containers during live events, but if nonprofits want to ensure every individual - especially younger donors - have an opportunity to give, they must be ready to accept checks, credit cards and online payments.

Odds are, attendees at an auction or raffle will have a mobile device on them, making it wise to utilize payment processing technology so phones are just as welcome as cash or credit cards.

Speaking of which, nonprofits can also promote live donations by equipping volunteers with point of sale devices or kiosks for the sake of convenient contributions.

Qgiv has found that nearly 20% of individuals sign up for nonprofit events using a smartphone or tablet. Even your donation and registration pages need to mobile-responsive!

4. Use social media

Wired Impact reported social media is paramount to raising awareness about events. Modern communication channels promote real-time updates about attractions and networking. Utilizing social media features like hashtags helps organizations create buzz and advocacy.

Audiences attending nonprofit events with mobile devices can continue to contribute to social sharing. When individuals share pictures and videos from the event with their friends, they spread a nonprofit's message while creating unique content the organization can use in the future.

During the event, nonprofits should provide opportunities for photos or suggest other online sharing activities.

5. Have measurable goals

Some nonprofits feel events are worthwhile as long as they spread awareness, even if they don't meet fundraising goals. However, vague benefits won't help justify costs to decision makers.

When designing an event, organizers should create particular standards for success that can be evaluated afterward, such as amount of money donated, number of people signing up for email lists or hits on social media pages.

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